Redmond resident Manka Dhingra. Contributed photo

Redmond resident Manka Dhingra. Contributed photo

Initial Returns Point to a Power Shift in the State Senate

With a 25-24 advantage, what will Democrats do?

Democrats went to bed Tuesday night confidently declaring their party will control the levers of legislating in state government by the end of the month.

Their mood of certainty stems from seeing Democrat Manka Dhingra comfortably ahead of Republican Jinyoung Lee Englund in the very special and extraordinarily expensive election for an open state Senate seat in the 45th Legislative District in King County.

Dhingra led Englund by nearly 11 points, 55.4 percent to 44.6 percent in the initial vote tally. While the margin may shrink in the coming days of ballot counting, Dhingra is on her way to winning and, following certification of results Nov. 28, getting sworn into office.

That will give Democrats a 25-24 advantage in the Senate, joining a Democratic majority in the House and a Democratic governor, Jay Inslee. It’s a political trifecta that now exists in only seven other states.

Inslee and Democratic lawmakers are not shy about their desire to try to strengthen gun control laws, toughen environmental regulations, expand abortion rights, broaden voting laws and design a means for taxing carbon emissions.

And there is chatter about amending the education funding law passed this year, including crafting new terms for use of local levies and a potential slimming of the statewide property tax increase.

Those are all issues for the 60-day session in 2018.

But there is unfinished business from the 2017 legislative marathon they need to address as well, chiefly acting on a capital budget and a Hirst fix, and maybe a little relief for payers of Sound Transit car tabs.

Democrats are trying decide if those tasks can be done in a special session next month and if there’s risk in trying.

Theoretically, Democrats could use the muscle of their majorities to push through a House proposal on Hirst to impose a 24-month timeout on changes in water rights rules required under a 2016 Supreme Court decision. And Inslee could sign it.

With a similar approach, they could push through a rebate plan for car tabs and a blueprint for the capital budget.

Then comes the potential snag. A 60 percent majority is required in the House and Senate to authorize the sale of bonds for the capital budget. That means Democrats will need a few Republicans to vote to approve the bonds.

It won’t be easy to find them.

The GOP-led coalition has held power in the Senate for five years because they lock arms in unity when they need to most. When they do, Inslee and Democrats cry foul and accuse them of obstruction.

Right now, Republicans are demanding a solution on Hirst before they’ll provide the votes for a capital budget bond bill.

Which brings us to the dilemma facing Democrats all agog with Manka Dhingra’s election night performance.

A few Democratic lawmakers from the deep-blue enclaves of the Puget Sound want to move swiftly to use their power to force the issue and test the GOP resolve.

There are a few cautious souls in their ranks as well. If enough Republican lawmakers don’t budge on the bond bill it will foil the effort to pass a capital budget. Democrats would blame the GOP but couldn’t escape criticism either.

With small Democratic majorities now—two seats in the House and one in the Senate—it may be too risky a maneuver. Next year all the seats in the House and most in the Senate—including the same one in the 45th—are on the ballot.

A misstep in December could benefit Republicans next November. And many Democrats are feeling too good right now to want that to happen.

jcornfield @herald net.com

More in News & Comment

State Supreme Court Strikes Down I-27; King County Will Pursue Safe Consumption Sites

The decision upholds a court ruling keeping the anti-consumption site initiative off the ballot.

Seattle’s Hockey Team And Stadium Are On Their Way

Key Arena renovations will be completed without the use of public funding

Seattle Municipal Court’s warrant outreach event on Nov. 30, 2017. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Seattle Takes Steps to Quash Warrants

City Attorney attempts to address inequities in criminal justice system and enhance public safety.

Andrea Bernard, Allycea Weil, and Phoenix Johnson (left to right) are Licton Springs K-8 parents who want their kids to stay in the Native-centered program. Photo by Melissa Hellmann
Licton Springs K-8 Parents Dismayed by Potential School Move

The PTO says children have benefited from the Native-centered program, and that transferring the pupils would disrupt their progress.

The King County Courthouse. File photo
King County Council Acknowledges Report on Juvenile Solitary Confinement

Report also says youth of color face a disproportionate amount of disciplinary measures

Federal Way Megachurch Slapped With Another Sexual Exploitation Lawsuit

Lawsuit calls for removal of Casey and Wendy Treat, and CFO, from church leadership roles.

The Centralia Power Plant is a coal-burning plant owned by TransAlta which supplies 380 megawatts to Puget Sound Energy. It is located in Lewis County and slated to shut down by 2025. Aaron Kunkler/Staff Photo
National Report Outlines Climate Change’s Course For Northwest

More fires, floods and drought appear to be on their way for Washington state.

Mustafa Getahun and other Washington Federation of State Employees laundry workers picket University of Washington Medicine at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery on May 17, 2018. Photo courtesy of the Washington Federation of State Employees
University of Washington Laundry Workers Feel Hung Out to Dry

The Rainier Valley facility’s imminent closure leaves over 100 people looking for new jobs.

Most Read